Dementia is a group of diseases that can impair memory, concentration and other cognitive abilities. Early diagnosis is essential for slowing this progressive disease and prolonging healthy brain function.
There are several different types of primary dementia, including:
Primary dementias are progressive diseases that worsen over time. Medical conditions such as depression, hypothyroidism and kidney disease can also cause dementia, however this form of dementia improves when the condition is treated.
While memory loss is a key symptom of dementia, it can also manifest in a variety of cognitive, psychological and behavioral symptoms.
Cognitive symptoms range from memory loss, confusion and difficulty communicating and problem solving to uncoordinated motor functions and the inability to plan and organize complex tasks.
Psychological and behavioral symptoms include:
Initially, dementia symptoms are mild and progressively worsen. Cognitive symptoms typically present at the onset while psychological and behavioral symptoms occur in the later stages.
Your doctor will perform a thorough physical and neurological examination consisting of a variety of cognitive and neuropsychological tests. These tests are designed to evaluate memory and attention, language and problem-solving abilities. Some patients also undergo MRI or positron emission tomography scans to look for patterns in brain activity.
Treatment for dementia is focused on slowing the disease’s progression and alleviating its symptoms. There are a variety of medications available to reduce the symptoms of both mild to moderate and moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease; these medications have also been used to effectively manage other forms of dementia.
Depending on the type of dementia, your doctor may include additional treatments to better manage your condition. For example, a patient diagnosed with vascular dementia may also benefit from a treatment plan targeted at lowering blood pressure and unhealthy cholesterol.
No, dementia is not classified as a mental illness. It’s a term used to describe a range of symptoms associated with the decline in cognitive functions, often due to senile brain degeneration and other underlying causes. However, patients with dementia may sometimes need a psychiatric evaluation due to behavioral and psychological symptoms associated with the condition.
Most forms of dementia, including progressive dementia, are not reversible. However, some causes of cognitive impairment can be treated and reversed, so it’s essential to determine the specific cause.
The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for a significant portion of cases. Other underlying causes include vascular issues, Lewy body dementia, and more.
Dementia is a general term describing symptoms related to memory disorders and cognitive decline. Alzheimer’s is a specific type of dementia and is the most common cause. While all Alzheimer’s patients have dementia, not all those with dementia have Alzheimer’s.
The signs of dementia can vary, but commonly include memory loss, difficulty in planning or organizing (which is where planning ahead can become challenging), difficulty in communication, and changes in mood and behavior.
Treatment for dementia depends on its cause. Currently, there’s no cure for most types of progressive dementia like Alzheimer’s, but there are treatments to manage symptoms. Dementia care often involves a multidisciplinary approach, which might include medication, therapy, and support for daily activities.
While there’s no definitive way to prevent dementia, some studies suggest that a healthy lifestyle, managing health conditions, staying mentally active, and regularly engaging in social activities might help delay the onset of certain memory disorders.